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2021 Volkswagen Tiguan Trim Levels with Comparisons & Configurations.

2021 Volkswagen Tiguan Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: S vs SE vs SE R-Line Black, SEL & Premium R-Line

What 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan Trim Level Should you Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

Finding a compact crossover with third-row seating is hard enough, but finding one that is actually spacious? That might seem like an impossibility. But - good news - it is a reality! The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan combines everything drivers want in a compact crossover with the spaciousness required of a third-row SUV. When even some full-size third-row SUVs can't get spacing right, the VW Tiguan somehow manages. But what else does this rare breed have to offer?

The amount of standard infotainment features and driver aids that come on the various trim levels is rather generous. Each model receives its power from the same turbo 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine, which generates 184 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque and sends it to the front wheels (or, optionally, all of them on the all-wheel drive models). An 8-speed automatic transmission is matched up with the engine to round out the powertrain. Also, that third row of seats is standard on the FWD variants but is optional on the AWDs. So, yes, you can opt to have just two rows if that is what you want. That's the thing about the Tiguan - you get versatility in ways you might not expect.

The one thing you should be aware of is that the Tiguan is not a speedster. The turbo engine is not particularly powerful and does not have a fuel economy that is worth writing home about. The AWD Tiguan is rated for 24 mpg combined, and real-world tests show that it achieves this but does not do much to exceed the rating. The engine is thirstier than some of its competitors, and you are not left with any other option on the Tiguan. That is not to mention the engine's weak acceleration and lack of responsiveness to the driver's inputs.

If you can settle for the slightly parched turbo engine and its somewhat lazy nature, then you might find yourself enjoying what the various trim levels have to offer. From the base S trim to the line-topping SEL Premium R-Line, there is probably something here for everyone. Tech-savvy and future-oriented, the only thing VW really needs to do to bring this vehicle into the future is to give that turbo engine a big overhaul. Fingers crossed, eh?

Let's hone in on what makes each 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan trim level unique. Which features are you looking for? Which trim level has them? We will go through all five of them and, in the end, let you know which one we think is going to offer you the most bang for your buck.

Price Tip
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Compare the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan S vs SE Trims. What is the difference?

Let us start things off with the base trim - the S - and compare it with the next trim level up, the SE. The S rides atop 17-inch multi-spoke two-tone machined alloy wheels and has a 'Coming/Leaving Home' features that comes with its automatic headlights. Atop the roof, you will see black roof rails, and on the rear fascia, you have standard LED taillights. Also, take note that the side mirrors are power operated and heated.

Inside of the S's cabin, you get a relatively standard set-up with regard to creature comforts and overall design. There are three 12-volt power outlets: one in the front console, one in the rear console, and one in the cargo area. Both front seats are manually adjustable six different ways, and there is a 7-seat configuration here with third-row seats (that are best left for children, which is par for the course with many third-row SUVs). Also, the second row of seats is a 60/40-split folding bench that allows for easy enough access to the third row. You will also see that there is a carpeted cargo area with tie-down hooks for securing your bulky cargo items. A quilted rhombus design adorns the cloth-upholstered seats. There is also a manual air conditioning system and a multi-functional steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons mounted onto it for easy access.

Safety features are relatively generous here. You do get a standard Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), rear-view camera, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) child seat anchor points, and engine brake assist. You also get an array of advanced driver aids, including side blind spot monitoring (also known as Side Assist) with rear cross traffic alert, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (which is called Front Assist), and pedestrian monitoring (which gets included with Front Assist).

Of course, the rest of the tech features are handy too. 5 years of standard access to Volkswagen Car-Net Remote Access with 5-years standard feels rather generous. Plus you get a premium color Multifunction Display (MFD), a 6.5-inch composition color touchscreen sound system with an AM/FM radio, Bluetooth hands-free audio streaming and phone, App-Connect, and a single USB-C data port.

Upgrading to the SE gets you gloss black alloy wheels added, as well as heated windshield washer nozzles. However, those are about the only differences on the outside. Under the hood, pretty much everything is the same.

Inside, you will find some upgrades worth mentioning. The driver's seat get massively upgraded to a 10-way power seat with power-adjustable lumbar support. There is also a Climatronic dual-zone automatic climate control system with a second-row air vent. The front seats both come with standard heating, and the steering wheel gets wrapped in leather. On top of all of that, the seating surfaces are upgraded from cloth to V-Tex leatherette.

Quite naturally, the list of standard tech features grows exponentially. You get two front USB-C data ports and one rear USB-C charging port, adaptive cruise control, wireless capabilities with App-Connect, an 8-inch color touchscreen infotainment display with HD Radio and voice control added on, a push button start with the remote keyless entry, a 3-month trial subscription to SiriusXM with 360L included, and a wireless smartphone charger.

Compare the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SE vs SE R-Line Black Trim. What is the difference?

As you can probably guess based on its name, the SE R-Line Black is all about the color black. This trim level upgrades you to bigger, chicer wheels - 20-inch black machined alloy wheels, to be more exact. You also get a low-speed corner-illuminating feature with the fog lights, a power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof, and special R-Line elements (the badging, grille, intake, bumpers, side sills, body-color lower cladding, and exterior trim).

Inside, you see some changes as well. There are stainless steel pedal caps and a R-Line badge on the steering wheel. A proximity sensor gets added to the infotainment system, and you also get Park Distance Control.

Compare the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SE R-Line Black vs SEL Trim Level. What is the difference?

The SEL is even more luxury-oriented than the SE and SE R-Line Black. The SEL adds a few distinctive exterior features, including 19-inch 5-spoke gray alloy wheels and silver roof rails. Inside, the steering wheel gains a heating function, and your get an auto-dimming rear-view mirror up front. You do also get the Discover Media touchscreen navigation system with 8-inch color display, proximity sensor, AM/FM/HD radio, and voice control built into it. A remote opening and closing power liftgate, rain-sensing windshield wipers, remote start, and the ultra-cool and futuristic Volkswagen Digital Cockpit come standard as well.

Compare the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL vs SEL Premium R-Line. What is the difference?

The line-topping SEL Premium R-Line trim adds a few things that make it stand out - and at the top of the pack, of course. First of all, there are some mechanical differences we need to go over here. The SEL Premium R-Line has VW's 4MOTION all-wheel drive and a 4-wheel independent suspension. Also, the 8-speed transmission has Sport mode and Tiptronic equipped.

Outside, there are some obvious differences too. This trim level rides atop some seriously chic 20-inch two-tone machined alloy wheels. It also comes with the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) that optimizes visibility in any given lighting condition, helping you round through curves with ease at night. LED headlights come standard, as do silver roof rails, R-Line design elements, and memory settings for the side mirrors.

Inside, the driver's seat gains memory settings (for three positions) as well. In this trim, you get a five-seat configuration with a 40/20/40-split folding rear bench seat. Ambient interior lighting sets the mood inside of the cabin, and the Vienna leather seating looks and feels comfortable. You will also see the signature R-Line badging on the steering wheel.

A 9-speaker Fender Premium Audio System gets added to the list of standard tech features and is sure to impress many music lovers with its concert-like sound quality. The liftgate becomes hands-free for easy opening and closing with a remote open/close function. High beam control and lane keep assist round out the list of standard driver aids on the Tiguan's line-topping trim level.

Buying Tip: To avoid overpaying on a new car, shop prices online first. Get up front pricing before you walk into a dealership. We recommend the following free services; Car Clearance Deals, NADAguides, CarsDirect & Motortrend.
These free services will offer you the lowest prices and supply you with multiple competing price quotes. You will know the best price before you visit the dealer.

Which Trim to Choose?

Obviously, there are five decent choices here, so you can't go wrong with any of them. The only downside to choosing any of these trims is the engine, but that's the only real significant pitfall for the Tiguan overall. However, we do think that one trim level happens to present buyers with the best deal. Drumroll, please...

And that trim level is the SE. Yeah, we know, the higher trim levels are super cool and super fast, but we have to give props to the SE for being convenient, comfortable, and practical. It has all the features that you really need and a good number of features that you might want. And there are, of course, plenty of options left over for you to customize the vehicle until your heart is content. The SE packs in a lot of tech features, and we recommend it based on the fact that it adds wireless smartphone app integration with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The extra USB ports are certainly a nice touch too.

We do not think that the base S trim level has enough features equipped on it to really match its price tag and the needs of the everyday buyer. For just about $2,000 more to start, you can get exponentially more features in the SE. We also do not recommend jumping up to the higher trim levels. While they have some appealing features, they can cause the vehicle's price tag to skyrocket higher than you might feel comfortable with soaring. And, without a stronger engine to choose from, we do not think that such a massive splurge is worth it without the boost in power.

The SE is economical enough as far as the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan goes. It might be under-whelming when it comes to power, but it satisfies in terms of pretty much everything else.

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Previous Volkswagen Tiguan Trim Configurations:

Compare the 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan Trim Levels
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